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Firsthand Report: Snowy Luau at Timberline Resort
By Jim Kenney, DCSki Columnist
March 25, 2013

This is a story I did not plan to write. I just wanted to sneak away for some relaxing mid-March ski time with the family, but the Snowy Luau Weekend at Timberline Resort in West Virginia is just too fun and too affordable not to share with kindred spring snowriding spirits. I made the trip to Timberline on March 15 and 16, 2013 with my wife, daughter, and son. All slopes were open including many gladed areas. Friday the 15th was sunny and gorgeous. The snow remained soft and fun on Saturday the 16th despite a couple of intermittent rain squalls.

This was a weekend reserved for fun with family and friends on the hill. If you’ve never been to Snowy Luau - it’s an absolute blast! Timberline usually schedules this annual Hawaiian themed spring ski festival around the third weekend of March. The primary activities transpire on Saturday and Sunday and include skiing competitions, humorous games/contests, a pig roast, Polynesian music/dance performances, bonfires, a torch-light parade, Saturday night fireworks, and more.

ScottyB in Cherry Bowl Glades. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

I played hooky and arrived early on Friday to take advantage of a fair weather day. Connecting with friendly Timberline regulars I got a great tour of the mountain including Cherry Bowl Glades, which were a little sketchy, but something to cheer about due to still being open on the Ides of March. I also skied soft, all-natural moguls on runs like Thunder Draft and Almost Heaven. The Timberline trail layout lies between approximately 3200-4200 feet above sea level, higher than most ski areas in the mid-Atlantic. The mountain catches and retains more snow than most as well, and this characteristic is conspicuous in the spring with comparatively superior conditions.

JohnL, treehugger and gentleman snow farmer. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

I shared a multi-room cabin with friends and family at the nearby state run Canaan Valley Resort. It’s close enough to Timberline (approximately four miles) that we were able to dine in the cabin and return to Timberline for night skiing and/or evening festivities on Friday and Saturday nights. Saturday was one of those spring days where the weather ranged all over the map including a couple of heavy rain showers, partial sun, high clouds, and dense fog. Through it all the snow remained soft and fun and we logged a full day of mileage with moderate to light crowds.

The spring conditions had softened and tamped down the bumps on Timberline’s premier black diamond runs Off the Wall and The Drop, making both a little easier to ski than usual. The groomed, but steepish White Lightning trail was a carver’s delight. Good intermediate cruisers Dew Drop and Twister were buttery and fun. The non-frozen precip was only a factor for about an hour of the day and the rest of the time Polynesian zaniness prevailed on the slopes and around the base lodge. The fresh roasted pork meals offered on the deck at noon were delicious. Many snowriders sported crazy costumes and it was great to be skiing rather than watching raindrops back in the DC area.

Vic captures picturesque conditions on White Lightning. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

Saturday evening my group joined the crowd around a massive slopeside bonfire. Then at 9PM everyone ran to the edge of the ski trails to watch the torch light parade descend the mountain. It typically features anywhere from 50 to 100 skiers and snowboarders carrying large torches in a slow, relentless meander down the black diamond White Lightning trail. With a little imagination it really looks like molten red lava spilling from a Hawaiian volcano. Simultaneously, fireworks are set off from the summit of the mountain. The combination can be quite impressive.

Later Saturday night we attended the performance of the Hula Halau ‘O Hokuolino Polynesian Review inside the Timberline Lodge. It was free and lasted for 90 minutes with about 20 dancers and some fun audience participation. I heard later that about a dozen young members of the authentically Hawaiian hula troop took ski lessons on Saturday afternoon, a marvelous mash up of fun-seeking only found at T-Line!

Polynesian Review. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

Snowy Luau has been a thing at Timberline for a couple of decades. I’m told back in 1996 or 1997 a fierce snow storm hit just as the torch parade and fireworks were lit off. It made the sky look like it was on fire and the crowd went bonkers. Legendary ski coach and media personality Bob Beattie once featured Snowy Luau on his TV program. That year a “snow farmer” entered the anything-that-slides contest in a 55 gallon drum with skis welded to the bottom of it. He flew down the hill and crashed into the maintenance building above the Wood’s Hole lift.

Typical understated Snowy Luau guest attire. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

The vagaries of spring weather rule at Snowy Luau. You just deal with it, but since it started the festival has never been cancelled to the best knowledge of my gang of T-Line friends. Some years you ski the white ribbon of death, others it’s been known to puke snow. This year the torch bearers stole the show when the fireworks were muted by low clouds. The unpretentious Saturday night crowd rolled with it like a bunch of crazies whooping it up under a Northern Lights display.

Things are cheap at this time of the season in West Virginia. A two day adult lift ticket with a 25% out-of-state coupon from Timberline cost $34 for Friday and Saturday. Single day tickets (weekend or midweek) for college students are $18. Rooms at the Canaan Valley Resort Lodge were discounted to $69 per night. Despite these and other deals lift lines were never bad. The biggest crowds often involve non-skiers flocking to the Saturday night parade, fireworks and Polynesian music events, especially in good weather.

Although we had to depart early to get our children back to their respective colleges, Snowy Luau events continued on Sunday, March 17th. A couple inches of new snow fell and crowds were extremely light. Sunday conditions were mostly dust over crust, but when the clouds parted the mountain looked sweet with fresh snow on the trees. It should be noted that when Snowy Luau coincides with St. Paddy’s Day it’s the perfect storm for partying.

As much as I enjoy Snowy Luau Weekend at Timberline, I realized I had never provided a “formal” report on it for DCSki. Consider that oversight corrected. Snowy Luau is getting to be a tradition with our family. I’ve been to about four now and this event is so pleasing it’s often where I choose to expend my last precious ski days of the season. It’s fun, it’s cheap, and the skiing is about as good as it gets in the mid-Atlantic springtime.

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mdskier
one year ago
JohnL’s looking good in 2nd photo.

Haven’t seen him in a while !
Speak truth to powder.
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